For those of us who grew up with vinyl records, we know what it sounds like when a record skips. You hear the same music or lyrics over and over until you move the arm over the scratch. Or you could tape a penny onto the arm to try to create enough pressure for the needle to find it’s way through. You had a favorite song, off a favorite record, by a favorite group. It’s difficult to give it all up.
I hear the same stories over and over when visiting with my step-dad at the Retirement Community for Active Seniors where he resides. I have tried all the hints; validate what they are saying, distract or redirect them to another activity. But within minutes, he repeats the same question, the same story over and over. I have not found a way to tape a penny to the arm that is guiding that needle through the grooves in his mind.
I dearly love this man; he’s the remaining elder of our family. I try to spend time with him regularly. In order to do so, I have learned to set limits. In a typical visit, I hear the same story every 5 minutes. When we sit with his friends, almost all of them do exactly the same thing. I cannot change the course of his life but I try to show up and show some compassion. And, I try to learn from what I am witnessing. I plan to plan for my own inevitable changes.
Repeat after me- Plan on aging. It eventually happens. Normal aging does not condemn you to assisted living, but the majority of the people residing where my step-dad lives have some obvious degree of dementia. Dementia is a broad term and Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. Alzheimer’s numbers are alarming. An estimated 5.3 million Americans have this disease.
This number continues to grow. In ten years, the number of people 65 + with Alzheimer’s is estimated to reach over 7 million. My friend has a mom that lives in the same Retirement Community as my step-dad. She is moving her mom to another facility, one that can seamlessly transition residents from assisted living to full-time nursing care. Her mom’s health is diminishing. My friend is planning for the next step.
Repeat after me, start thinking about your own future. Repeat after me- plan on aging.